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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Letter from VSB to Garibaldi Parents and Guardians

June 30, 2014

Dear Garibaldi Parents and Guardians,

Recently, some decisions have been made by the School District regarding use of space at Garibaldi Annex . We understand that some questions may have arisen regarding the rationale for some of these decisions and are therefore providing the following information. We hope it will be helpful to you. Staff from the School District offices will be moving into the upper floor at Garibaldi starting in the fall of 2014.

Why are they coming to Garibaldi? 

As you may be aware, the district has experienced significant budget shortfalls for a number of years including an approximate twelve million dollar shortfall for the upcoming school year. As a result, the District has had to make some very difficult decisions regarding spending reductions and has also needed to identify areas of potential revenue. The District will be leasing the space at the District offices currently occupied by District Learning Services staff (teachers and support staff) in order to increase revenue. These staff members will be moving into excess space in a variety of schools around the District, including Garibaldi Annex. The Ministry of Education has made it clear that it expects school districts to use school space as efficiently as possible and has expressed concern about funding seismic or new school construction as long as a District has what the Ministry considers to be excess space . Garibaldi has an official capacity of 170 students, however there have only been approximately 70 students registered in the regular program for the majority of the past five years. This has resulted in a significant amount of excess space in the school. Garibaldi has had the ability to make use of and enjoy this extra space for a number of years , however as this space is considered 'above and beyond' what the Ministry of Education designates as necessary educational space, it must be re-designated at this time. The District has engaged in a careful long-term enrolment projection process and is projecting that in­ catchment enrolment at Garibaldi is likely to remain between 60 and 70 students for the next 15 years . This equates to a maximum of three divisions and therefore the need for three enrolling classrooms. This leaves a significant amount of excess space at Garibaldi that has therefore been identified to accommodate some of the staff from District Learning Services. Should the catchment enrolment shared between Lord Nelson Elementary and Garibaldi Annex ever increase significantly, use of space within both schools would be carefully re-examined .

What kind of checks will be in place in terms of these adults interacting with students? 

The adults moving into Garibaldi are all VSB staff who, as a condition of employment, will have already been expected to undergo criminal record checks and to adhere to the District Guidelines for Adults Interacting with Students . Although it will likely be somewhat rare for any of the Learning Services staff to interact directly with students at Garibaldi, the majority of these staff members are teachers who interact with students in many schools in the District as part of their professional roles. It is common practice for District Learning Services staff to work in a number of elementary schools across the District.

Why are the students going to be in classrooms only on the main floor of the school? 

The upper floor of Garibaldi was selected in order to accommodate the maximum number of District staff as its current layout includes a minimal number of walls and is therefore able to easily accommodate a greater number of staff cubicles. The lower floor is currently divided into classroom spaces and would have required significant additional cost to the District in order to reconfigure the space.

Three of the classrooms on the lower floor will therefore continue to be used as enrolling classrooms and one will be used to create the new library. Will the school library be reduced because of this move? 

Although the physical size of the new library will be smaller than the current library, the library collection and its availability to students will not change. The library size will be consistent with that of a number of schools in the District, and given that the enrolment at Garibaldi is under 70 students, the space per student is actually greater than in most schools.

What about the computers from the library? 

The District has been moving away from a 'separate' computer lab model to one of technology integration within classrooms. The District is about to purchase a class set of IPAD Minis and a cart for Garibaldi. This purchase will allow students at Garibaldi to experience use of current learning technology in a flexible way. With a student to IPAD ratio of 3:1, students at Garibaldi will actually have greater access to learning technology than students in many elementary schools. It is being investigated as to whether some of the current computers in the library can also be moved into enrolling classroom next year.

What about 'wet' space for Art? 

Each of the classrooms on the main floor has a 'wet' area with a sink and tiled floor. Teachers will be working with the school administration to determine whether additional facilities such as more counter space or sinks, drying racks, etc. will need to be purchased and the District will fund those purchases.

There is a rumour that the District is trying to 'cap' enrolment at Garibaldi. Is that true? 

No cap has been placed on in-catchment enrolment at Garibaldi. Students who live within the catchment shared by Garibaldi Annex and Lord Nelson Elementary continue to be able to register at Garibaldi as they have always done. As the District's budget has continued to be reduced by the Ministry, however, our staffing budget has become much tighter and our ability provide extra staffing to schools to accommodate students who do not live in the catchment has become severely reduced. If there is space available after all in-catchment students have been placed, then out-of-catchment students will continue to be approved for registration. Incoming students who do not live within Garibaldi's catchment and have a sibling already attending Garibaldi will continue to be given priority over other out-of-catchment applicants to the school when there is space available . Garibaldi is not treated any differently than any other school in the District in this regard.

There is a rumour that Garibaldi 'lost' its Kindergarten teacher last year because the District put a limit on the size of the incoming Kindergarten class. Is that true? 

The District did not put any limit on the number of incoming Kindergarten students who live within the Garibaldi catchment. Class sizes are determined provincially and the District is required to adhere to those class size limits, providing space, wherever possible, for students who live within a school's catchment. All schools are organized in the most efficient manner, so that in-catchment students are able to attend their neighbourhood school if they choose to . Teacher staffing is then provided based on the number of in­ catchment students registered at the school. If, after all in-catchment students are placed, there are still student spaces available within class size limits, then registration is opened to out-of-catchment students through the cross-boundary application process . These decisions are all made in accordance with the British Columbia School Act and Board policies relating to registration and cross-boundary applications. Again, Garibaldi has not been treated any differently than other schools in the District.

Why did Garibaldi 'lose' the Music teacher last year? 

Non-enroling staffing , such as Music specialists, librarians , Resource teachers, Administration, etc . is assigned to schools based on the total number of students in a school. As enrolment declines, the staffing assigned is reduced accordingly. Schools with a very small student population therefore generate a very small non-enroling staffing allocation, which often must be combined into a single position wherever possible in order to ensure the most efficient use of District staffing resources . Combined with decreasing flexibility regarding budget-based staffing allocations, this is what occurred at Garibaldi, resulting in the Music program being taught by the Vice-Principal. The non-enroling staffing allocation in a larger school is much higher and therefore the school is able to benefit from a higher specialist allocation. This is not fiscally possible in very small schools such as Garibaldi.

What happened with the review of the Garibaldi catchment boundaries? 

This spring, the District conducted a review of several school catchments located in the Northeast sector of the District, including Garibaldi. The review included the opportunity for school community members to provide input regarding potential changes to their catchment. It is my understanding that a number of Garibaldi , Lord Nelson and Begbie parents, including the Garibaldi PAC chair, attended the public input session and provided input both verbally and later in writing . All input was considered and ultimately, it was concluded that there was no overwhelming evidence to support adjustments to the Garibaldi catchment. Although some families did indicate a preference for an adjustment to the catchment boundaries, the majority did not. As such, families who do not live within the Nelson/Garibaldi catchment will continue to need to apply for cross-boundary approval in order to attend either of these schools and that approval will be based on available space as per Board policy .

Why was the Home Learners Program moved from Garibaldi? 

The District Home Learners program has been moved to Beaconsfield Elementary in order to provide the opportunity for intermediate students to remain in the program . This move was initiated primarily because some of the parents of students in the Home Learners program indicated that they would appreciate the opportunity to have their children continue in the program past grade four . The District supports this idea . Home Learners happened to be located at Garibaldi , however it was not a Garibaldi program and as such, it was subject to being relocated in order to best meet program needs.

I hear a rumour that the supervision aides at Garibaldi have changed some of the playground rules. Why is that? 

Playground rules are determined at the school level. It is expected that students will be supervised on the playground in a manner that minimizes the possibility of harm to students, however individual school administrators ultimately have the freedom and responsibility to determine what that will look like at their school site. If parents have questions about an issue such as this, they are encouraged to speak with the vice-principal and principal, who ultimately have the responsibility of ensuring student safety within their school. Finally, there has been a change to the administrative structure at Garibaldi Annex. Effective September 2014, Garibaldi will revert to being administered by the Principal of Lord Nelson Elementary. This change reflects the need to align the administrative structure with the shared Lord Nelson/Garibaldi Annex catchment area. School-based concerns should continue to be addressed through the Vice-Principal at Garibaldi, Ms. Baker, however Ms. Mette Hamaguchi, Principal of Lord Nelson, will also provide the supervision that used to occur by the principal of Begbie Elementary, Mr. Bob Bodden . The school and the District sincerely wish each of the Garibaldi families a relaxing and enjoyable summer and look forward to welcoming many of you back to Garibaldi in September.


Denise Johnson Director of Instruction

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